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Making $omething out of Nothing

Jacqueline Felker MCS 351 K. Marshall June 9, 2013 Final Project

Thesis In the late 90s Seinfeld (1989-1998) was at the peak of its success, which is why Jerry Seinfeld's decision to end the show rock the world. Fortunately Seinfeld has lived on through many years of syndication. In the essay "From Must- See- TV to Branded Counterprogramming", Michael Epstein, Mark C. Rogers and Jimmie L. Reeves set out to demonstrate that, "in moving from network primetime to 'offnetwork syndication' Seinfeld's commodity value has experienced radical transformations. No longer a tent pole for NBC's 'Must-See-TV' franchise, Seinfeld in syndication has become branded counterprogramming" (Lavery 2011).This makes it seem that Seinfeld serves only as a network money train, when in actuality, the show continues to entertain new and old fans alike. This digital photo essay will show how it may seem that Seinfeld has become branded counterprogramming, but actually demonstrate how Seinfeld is a quality program whose "nothingness" has helped keep the show popular and relevant because many of the themes and problems of the show are still things that exist in society today. Seinfeld addresses social rules and issues that still remain relevant decades later, pleasing old fans and engaging younger generations.

From Top to Bottom: 1. A Twitter page @SeinfeldToday, which throws out scenarios that could happen if the show was still producing new episodes 2. The Seinfeld cast on the cover of Rolling Stone from July 8, 1993 3. The, now, infamous Seinfeld logo, that could be considered part of the “brand�


Their side of the argument.... As stated before, the essay “From Must-See-TV to Branded Counterprogramming” sets out to demonstrate that Seinfeld has become TBS’s show pony to easily gain viewers because Seinfeld has become such a well-known brand. Just as a refresher, counterprogramming is defined as scheduling a program to compete with a program broadcast simultaneously on another station. TBS does air the show quite a few times a day, and my father watches every single episode. Every. Single. Day. My father, who is clearly a loyal fan, chooses to watch Seinfeld over other shows because he knows what is getting when he watches it, in the same way someone orders McDonald’s when visiting a new city filled with different restaurants- because they can be guaranteed a certain amount of comfort and familiarity that something new might not be able to offer him or her. In this sense Seinfeld has become branded counterprogramming, because the brand itself is big enough to draw people, without having to do much else. TBS has taken Seinfeld’s success and ran with it. If you browse their website, there are pages of Seinfeld merchandise available for purchase, and even almost fifteen years since the show has been off the air, Seinfeld cast members are being used to promote different facets of TBS (not even the network that brought them to fame).

1. 1. Jerry Seinfeld is used to advertise TBS for Apple products. The TBS app allows you to watch Seinfeld and other TBS shows on portable devices


2. Only 6 of the many t-shirts sold on the TBS website, along with other apparel, accessories and memorabilia. Shirts have catchphrases such as “Master of my domain” and “No Soup for You”


A FIFTH Time ?? Really?? Just a few months ago, Seinfeld was renwed for its FIFTH syndication cycle!

180 episodes in syndication

Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have each earned $400 million through syndication deals

17 Million amount of $ each episode is worth


amount reruns have made All Statistics from Sherwin, 2013.

The Best Sitcom Ever! Just this past December, Seinfeld was voted as The Best Sitcom Ever in a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll. Seinfeld beat out popular shows such as The Honeymooners and Friends.

15 years after the final episode aired the show remains popular and relevant. One reason is that the show is passed down from generations, in a similar way sports team allegiances are passed down. Because the show airs as many as five times a day on TBS, it is easy for people to watch Seinfeld whether it’s for their first time or their fifteenth time. According to the 2008 New York Times article, “Repeat Business”, written by Rob Walker, “Nielsen Media Research tracks the cumulative audience for syndicated programming, including reruns, and among sitcom reruns, “Seinfeld” has remained in the top five such shows watched by 25-to-54-yearolds throughout its afterlife”(Walker 2008).

Scenes from a fan favorite episode, “The Dinner Party” (5.13).


Getting to my point... “I guess there’s still a place in the American heart for a show that’s about nothing. The Talmudic disquisitions on life, religion, social graces, and other matters have remained current”- Adam Chandler, 2013

The focus on daily minutia has allowed many of the plotlines to hold up because there are still questions about dating, “double dipping” and other social etiquettes discussed in Seinfeld. People will always be able to relate to waiting for a table when they are hungry which is the premise of episode “The Chinese Restaurant” (2.11). We have all forgotten where our car is parked as seen in “The Parking Garage” (3.6). Everyone has been caught in a lie like in “The Marine Biologist” (5.14). For 25 years we have been able to see relatable aspects of our lives on Seinfeld acted out in hilarious ways, by people who represent the things we all try to hide about ourselves. While the money is clearly a reason the show has been able to stick around, it is a complete injustice to say that it only lives on as branded counterprogramming. The “nothingness” and emphasis on daily rituals have allowed the show to transcend time and welcome new generations of fans.

Top: a scene from “The Chinese Restaurant” Bottom: a scene from “The Parking Garage”

A still from “The Marine Biologist”


Remaining Relevant and Growing Up (well sort of growing up) As I said before, the daily minutia has helped Seinfeld remain so relevant. The constant conversations between George (Jason Alexander), Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), Elaine (Julia LouisDreyfus) and Kramer (Michael Richards) about simple things are things that still reign true today. The conversations between the four friends in the coffee shop are still conversations that are being had in coffee shops between friends today. Larry David’s show Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000- ) has been able to continue that focus on daily minutia and stretched out conversations about unimportant topics that can become a premise of the show. Curb demonstrates just how relevant Seinfeld still is, because it is using the basic foundation that Seinfeld pioneered. Seinfeld has brought fans to Curb Your Enthusiasm, just as I’m sure Curb has encouraged younger generations to watch Seinfeld. The many syndication cycles of Seinfeld had made it easy for new fans to arise. The 2009 season of Curb focuses on a Seinfeld reunion, and when you put the two shows into one, it is obvious how similar they really are. Seinfeld’s relevance is so prominent that it is able to inspire fresh television 15 years later.

In season 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, David and Seinfeld pleased the world with the mock reunion of our favorite New Yorkers... even if only for a few episodes. These characters stand the test of time!


In Case You Need More Convincing!

In the episode “SeinfeldVision” (2.1) of 30 Rock, the episode recognizes how relevant Seinfeld still is, not only monetarily, but because fans still remain loyal to the show.

This still from “The Dinner Party” shows Jerry discussing racial issues with a black and white cookie; a topic that sitcoms (and the world as a whole) still addresses today. Seinfeld found its own way to address a heavy topic lightly.

This shot from “The Sponge” (7.9) addresses birth control, and shows Elaine being judged for her sexuality. Women are still judged for their sexuality today, so this is another topic that is extremely relevant.


In Conclusion... To sum it all up, Seinfeld was and still is one of the most important sitcoms to ever air on television. While the show has made an enormous amount of money for NBC, TBS, and Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David themselves, the show is not only around because of the money it makes. The argument that Seinfeld is branded counterprogramming is legitimate but it is also flawed because they are not looking at how relevant the content still is. Fans continue to watch the show because it’s comforting and familiar but also because the storylines and humor still hold up. There is a whole generation of new fans who watch the show because the “nothingness” of the show is timeless and has the ability to entertain all types of audience. I’ll leave you with one last question: will Seinfeld’s run ever see an end? Or will it live on as sitcom gold forever?

“Although it's about four friends in New York in the '90s, "Seinfeld's" best jokes have almost nothing to do with all that, another reason it endures. The contamination of Jerry's car by a parking valet's lethal BO, Kramer's finding the old Merv Griffin set and turning his apartment into a talk show, the invention of the Mansiere. These are timeless absurdities. And here's another one: ...we're still watching” (Peyser 2008). Top and Bottom: Scenes from filming “The Finale”



is so much more important than anybody understood. How do you replace a show that's popular in Alabama and Boston, even though it was about Jewish characters from New York? That just doesn't come along every day.” –Peter Tortorici, former head program at CBS (Carter 1998)


Work Cited... Yada Yada Yada

Carter, Bill. "Shrinking Network TV Audiences Set Off Alarm and Reassessment." The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Nov. 1998. Web. 08 June 2013. Chandler, Adam. "‘Seinfeld’ Eclipses $3 Billion in Syndication." The Scroll. Tablet Magazine, 05 Apr. 2013. Web. 08 June 2013. David, Larry, and Jerry Seinfeld. "The Chinese Restaurant." Seinfeld. NBC. 2.11, Los Angeles, CA, 23 May 1991. Television. David, Larry. "The Dinner Party." Seinfeld. NBC. 5.13, Los Angeles, CA, 3 Feb. 1994. Television. David, Larry. "The Parking Garage." Seinfeld. NBC. 3.6, Los Angeles, CA, 30 Oct. 1991. Television. David, Larry. "Seinfeld." Curb Your Enthusiasm. HBO. 7.10, Los Angeles, CA, 22 Nov. 2009. Television. Fey, Tina. "SeinfeldVision." 30 Rock. NBC. 2.1, New York, 4 Oct. 2007. Television. Hauge, Ron, and Charlie Rubin. "The Marine Biologist." Seinfeld. NBC. 5.14, Los Angeles, CA, 10 Feb. 1994. Television. Lavery, David, and Sara Lewis. Dunne. Seinfeld, Master of Its Domain: Revisiting Television's Greatest Sitcom. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2011. Print. Mehlman, Peter. "The Sponge." Seinfeld. NBC. 7.9, Los Angeles, CA, 7 Dec. 1996. Television. Peyser, Marc. "Legend or Loser: Does 'Seinfeld' Still Hold Up After 10 Years?" The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 03 May 2008. Web. 08 June 2013. Sherwin, Adam. "Seinfeld Is Laughing All the Way to the Bank: TV Show Generates $3.1bn in Repeat Fees since Final Episode." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 03 Apr. 2013. Web. 08 June 2013. Walker, Rob. "Repeat Business." The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2008. Web. 8 June 2013


Making $omething Out of Nothing  

Seinfeld final project at DePaul University.

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